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Chapter: 

IV. Governance issues

E-government

Launched in August 2006, the Latvija.lv portal provides individuals with Internet resources relating to state institutions1 and centralised access to public e-services. From 2010 it will link together information about 1,333 e-government services for citizens and businesses. More services are currently being added. All these services are intended to function automatically, ensuring data exchange between citizens and state institutions.2

The first e-service on the portal was released in February 2008 and contains four state registers. Currently, the most commonly used e-services are electronic declaration and verification of a person's place of residence as well as verification of documents' validity. Authorised access is possible via an Internet bank or e-signature.3

The Conception on the Points of Single Contact (PSC), which implements Directive 2006/123/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on services in the internal market, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in 2009. The Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government, provides the technical support for the PSC; the back-office function is ensured by competent authorities. The Latvian Development and Investment agency acts as mediator (it solves non-standard requests by services providers and recipients and also consults them on usage of the portal). The front-office function is fulfilled by the State portal. The development of an e-infrastructure for the PSC is in progress. The public service catalogue has been developed and is already operational. Extra functionality will be added in 2010/2011.4

Open government

The Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) was adopted by the Latvian Parliament on 29 October 1998 and signed into law by the President in November 1998.5 It guarantees public access to all information held by state administrative institutions and local government institutions in "any technically feasible form" not specifically restricted by law. Public bodies must respond to requests for information within 15 days. According to FOIL there are several exemptions from the basic principle: if the information is for internal use by an institution; it is a trade secret not relating to public procurements or information about the private life of an individual; or if it concerns certification, examination, project, tender, and similar evaluation procedures; and (a recent addition) information for the use of the service itself/ The latter mainly concerns information received from NATO and other international institutions relating to state security. Finally, the FOIL introduces a broad exception allowing legitimate grounds for restricting public access to be defined by other laws (e.g. criminal procedure, law on police, and other laws governing particular institutions).

Appeals can be made internally to a higher body or directly to a court. The law was amended in 2003 to give the Data State Inspectorate oversight authority starting in January 2004.6 In practice, however, the Inspectorate experienced considerable problems with implementing this task due to lack of resources and administrative capacity. In addition, in contrast to the oversight of data protection issues, the Inspectorate had no competence to punish any violations of FOIL. Therefore, in 2009 FOIL was amended and the Data State Inspectorate was relieved of its responsibility with respect to this law.

The Law on Official Secrets7 establishes that information on the economic situation of the country, the status of the budget, and rates of salaries, benefits, preferences, and guarantees granted to officials and employees of the state and local government institutions cannot be placed under restricted access.

Other developments

No specific information has been provided under this heading.

Non-government organisations' advocacy work

In 2009 a personal data protection association was founded with the aim of promoting education and the dissemination of information on privacy issues in Latvia and assisting governmental institutions in privacy-related legal developments.

International obligations and International cooperation

Latvia acceded to the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to its First Optional Protocol that establishes an individual complaints mechanism.8

Latvia joined the Council of Europe (CoE) in 1995 and held the six-month rotating presidency from November 2000 to May 2001. It has signed and ratified both the ECHR9 and the CoE Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention No. 108).10 The European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism was ratified on 20 April 1999. On 22 December 2004, Latvia ratified the Protocol Amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. Latvia has signed and ratified the European Convention on Cybercrime.11

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concluded that Latvia had violated applicants' right to respect for private and family life when the country failed to regularise the citizenship of stateless individuals within Latvian territory prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union and Latvian independence. Although the applicants failed to apply for permanent residency before the stated deadline, the Court concluded that the individuals had formed and developed personal, social, and economic relationships, which constituted the private life of any human being. It also found that the Latvian authorities' refusal to grant them the right to reside lawfully and permanently in Latvia represented an interference with their private lives that could not be considered "necessary in a democratic society".12

In the case of Igors Dmitrijevs v. Latvia the ECHR ruled, among other things, that the opening and monitoring by the prison authorities of the letters ECHR had sent to the applicant had not been in "accordance with the law" within the meaning of Article 8 paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.13 In the case of Cistiakov v. Latvia the ECHR found that restrictions on correspondence with his relatives had not been in "accordance with the law" within the meaning of Article 8 paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.14 The case of Pacula v. Latvia also related to correspondence with the ECHR.15

Latvia became a member of the European Union in 2004.

 

Footnotes